The Practice of Acupuncture

Methods: Randomly selected licensed acupuncturists in Massachusetts and Washington state were interviewed and asked to record information on 20 consecutive patient visits.
Results: Most acupuncturists in both states had 3 or 4 years of academic acupuncture training and had received additional "postgraduate" training as well. Acupuncturists treated a wide range of conditions, including musculoskeletal problems (usually back, neck, and shoulder) (33% in Massachusetts and 47% in Washington), general body symptoms (12% and 9%, respectively) such as fatigue, neurological problems (10% and 12%, respectively) (eg, headaches), and psychological complaints (10% and 8%, respectively) (especially anxiety and depression). Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) was the predominant style of acupuncture used in both states (79% and 86%, respectively). Most visits included a traditional diagnostic assessment (more than 99%), regular body acupuncture (95% and 93%, respectively), and additional treatment modalities (79% and 77%, respectively). These included heat and lifestyle advice (66% and 65%, respectively), most commonly dietary advice and exercise recommendations. Chinese herbs were used in about one third of visits. Although most patients self-referred to acupuncture, about one half received concomitant care from a physician. Acupuncturists rarely communicated with the physicians of their patients who were providing care for the same problem.
Conclusions: This study contributes new information about acupuncturists and the care they provide that should be useful to clinicians interested in becoming more knowledgeable about complementary or alternative medical therapies available to their patients.
The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, including provider-based therapies, has grown in the United States since the 1950s.[1] Although acupuncture has been available in various Chinatowns in the United States since the mid 1800s, it has been a relative latecomer to the general American health care scene, growing rapidly since the 1970s, when Nevada and Oregon became the first states to license non-physician acupuncturists.[2] Currently, 51 acupuncture schools are accredited or are candidates for accreditation,[3] and 42 states have statutes that allow the practice of acupuncture by nonphysicians.[4] In addition, about 3,000 physicians in the United States are believed to practice acupuncture.[2,5]
Despite growth in the popularity of acupuncture and in the number of clinical studies evaluating its effectiveness for various conditions, little is known about the training or practices of acupuncturists. This study[6] presents new information about the demographic and training characteristics of licensed acupuncturists, the reasons patients seek their care, the diagnostic processes they use, and the treatments and self-care recommendations they provide.
According to medscape.


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